THE BLOG
12/05/2012 12:05 pm ET Updated Feb 04, 2013

Now, Can Obama Be the "Science" President?

Really? How old is the Earth?

The election is over, but the science-denying campaign lingers. Maybe it's a good time the president finally leads the charge against an ideology that dictates to its acolytes that all science is a hoax.

President Obama has often talked impressive science policy as the key to a "21st century economy." During his first term he made a "national commitment" to science -- STEM -- education and set a 10-year goal of recruiting 100,000 new science teachers. He then convinced private businesses to invest $700 million through the "Educate to Innovate" program.

But Obama's second-term science goals are murky since he talked very little specifics during the campaign. Nevertheless, he was endorsed by 68 Nobel prize-winning scientists and other high-tech types that drive the economy.

"President Obama understands the key role science has played in building a prosperous America," the scientists wrote in an October 17 letter, noting Obama has "championed investment in science and technology research that is the engine of our economy." Besides being a long-term investment with a track-record of jump-starting new industries and products (with the spoils of the "space race" the classic example), science also remains imperative to managing public health, infrastructure, and natural resources.

Maybe it's time the president earned his 2009 Nobel Prize and stood up to the science deniers.

Here's a reminder: On October 9, 2009, when the Nobel Committee announced the 2009 Peace Prize, they noted, "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future." The Committee gushed over Obama's stated goal that "Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges."

Now is a good time for the president to prove it.

Without having to fret about re-election means the president could aggressively tackle the overdue "global challenge" of climate change.

Even after Superstorm Sandy, it took the Republican mayor of New York City to out the unspeakable words of "climate change." Though the president could not bring himself to utter those words even in his victory speech, that domestic heavy lifting is done and now is a good time for the president to end the nearly two decades the U.S. has been subject to global ridicule for being the climate change laggard.

When Mitt Romney effusively uttered "I like coal" during the debates and America's "Energy Voters" responded by sending him home to pump his own gas, that was the president's cue to move forward on a science-based economy that includes the emerging $2.3 trillion renewable energy and clean-tech sectors directly related to the global challenges of climate change.

It's time the "Science President" embraced the science of sustainable energy and stood up against the hoax that it is a pipe-dream. He could tout the fact that Republican-stronghold Texas leads the nation in new wind energy construction and ranks third for new wind capacity while the "fiscal cliff" circus has relinquished the wind-energy Production Tax Credit extension to a backburner. Here's another hint: The darling of conservatives, the Department of Defense (which accounts for 80 percent of U.S. energy consumption), is driving science-based sustainable energy innovation in the name of "national security" by spending $1.8 billion to become energy independent using mostly solar energy.

Now is a good time the president insists that science no longer be a political issue, allowing government employ real science in its decision-making across the board and act now on established research rather than stalling as cadres of lobbyists call for "new studies" that only slow the economy. The president talks about the need for educating more scientists, but he should listen to the ones he has now.

The president should also listen to the economists who estimate climate-driven droughts, wildfires, and super-storms have already cost $560 billion since 1980 (not including devastation from Sandy) and the health costs of "brown power" pollution is $100 billion each year.

Good God, man, there is a reason the scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service, and the National Hurricane Center are all part of the U.S. Department of Commerce: Severe weather events impact the economy.

The science-based technologies that drive the global economy are complex. You can't have an innovative and robust economy based on badly skewed "science" with egregious conclusions ("clean" coal, "safe" levels of toxics, "trees" cause global warming) that is politically convenient in the short-term to the vexing BPs of the world who wish to avoid culpability. Allowing ideology to cloud critical scientific decisions to politically pander to a small group of nut jobs only slows our economy and brings us perpetually late to the emerging markets party.

With global carbon dioxide emissions at a record high, now is a good time for the president to pick up the phone and order the State Department's special envoy for climate change currently attending the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change underway in Doha, Qatar, to expedite action now. Such political courage would give the president bragging rights during his upcoming State of the Union speech as he announces that the U.S. is now leading the world in the fight against climate change.

That's the stuff of a Nobel Prize winner.